A familiar sight at most of the larger PRCA rodeos is the colorful Copenhagen/Skoal score­board! The board provides quick scores and times on cowboys and cowgirls as the rodeo progresses, and adds to the overall smoothness and enjoyment of the performance.

By RANDY WITTE, originally published in the July 1996 issue 

The scoreboard program was started in 1990 by United States Tobacco Sales and Marketing Company as an exten­sion of existing programs with the PRCA to enhance rodeo. There are now three scoreboard teams with a total of four scoreboards that travel the country, going to more than 60 PRCA rodeos a year, including the· National Finals.

The scoreboards, which represent some pretty sophisticated computer technology, were developed by Dak­tronics Inc. of Brookings, South Dakota. Each 9 by 28-foot board is run by an operator who mans two computers. One computer handles all the rodeo statistics, the other takes care of all graphic and logo displays. The boards are illuminated for day and night use, have computerized animation, and can display words to the national anthem, give brief profiles of the con­testants (including hometowns, money earnings, and world standings), and summarize the leaders in each event after each go-round.

Randy Barnes and Steve Scribner standing in front of the rodeo scoreboard
Randy Barnes and Steve Scribner, with one of their Copenhagen/Skoal Pro Rodeo Scoreboards in the background.

They also show the event leader before a contestant competes, and indicate the score or time to beat. This feature really gets interesting and helpful to fans and contestants alike at a rodeo with more than one go­round. During the final round, the scoreboard will show average leaders, and indicate what each contestant must score or time in order to go to the lead in the average.

Each system operator is assisted by a fellow in the arena with a telephone headset, who relays information to him from the rodeo judges. This is a lot faster than the traditional method of gathering information, which entails a runner with a chalkboard who flashes scoring information to the announcer.

The system includes an electronic timer for women’s barrel racing that is plugged directly into the computers, so the crowd can see the seconds ticking off during a run. The three computerized cowboys who travel with the scoreboards, set them up, take them down, and do the programming before each rodeo, are Leon Schweitzer, and brothers Ken and Steve Scribner. They each have a different segment of the country to travel by means of pickup and 40-foot trailer that is painted with a colorful mural of the traveling scoreboard. Inside each trailer is a scoreboard, all the rigging to hang it up, plus the computer equipment and cables.

“It’s a pretty slick deal,” says Steve Scribner, who typically starts his year by taking the scoreboard to such rodeos as Denver, San Antonio, Tucson. Pocatello, Scottsdale … and that’s before the year really gets going. “We each have two of everything, a com­plete backup. If something breaks, we just replace it at the time, and then fix it later. We travel different areas, but all three of us wind up in Las Vegas and help at the NFR.”

The man who put the scoreboard program together is Walt Garrison, the former running back for the Dallas Cowboys who went on to become a long-time spokesman for Copenhagen/Skoal. Walt and his secretary for the last 20 years, Annice Burkhalter, will both retire August 1. Walt said the first thing he wants to do upon retiremnet is “just sit in a rocking chair for the first 2 months… and after that, I might rock.”

Meanwhile the fellow promoted to overseeing the entire scoreboard program and other related endeavors is Randy Barnes of Yorba Linda, California. Randy has been with the company since 1985, and enters the steer wrestling event on occasion, as well. He once took a year off work so he could rodeo full time, but while that experience was fulfilling, it ultimately taught him the value of a steady paycheck.

So, we wish happy retirements to both Walt Garrison and Annice Burkhalter, and congratulate Randy Barnes on his promotion. And we look forward to seeing those scoreboards at a lot of rodeos in the years ahead.

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